Welcome to another installment of my Genre Exploration series, where I discuss genres I don’t normally pick up, define them, talk about their classics and new releases, recommend books and authors, and much more.
I had left this feature a little unattended, but it’s finally back. Today I want to have a little discussion on non-fiction books, mention my favorite subgenres and give out some recommendations. Most readers I know pick up very few non-fiction books during the year. Some don’t even read this genre at all. I also have a hard time reaching out for this genre and veer more towards fiction. So it left me wondering: are we afraid of non-fiction?
I don’t think we are exactly afraid of it, but when we read we usually want to forget the real world for a while and focus on places we’ve never be to and characters that go through incredible adventures. For that reason, reading a non-fiction book is too close to reality for some of us. It could even feel like a task if you are not interested in the subject matter or the style it was written in. But, as with every genre, I do believe there are plenty non-fiction books that anyone can enjoy. The trick is to look for the right topics.
We can learn a lot with non-fiction books, but we can also have a lot of fun with them. Sometimes I forget they are not all serious! And the ones that really are serious are not boring. I’ve picked up a few non-fiction books the last couple of years and I’ve really enjoyed them, so hopefully they’ll interest you as well. But, before going over my recommendations, I wanted to discuss a little about some subgenres. With this I hope I can highlight how diverse the non-fiction genre is and why I believe anyone can enjoy it.
If you think about it, non-fiction subgenres are really endless. If you go to its Goodreads page, you can see a list of over 40 subgenres listed. Among these are art, criticism, self-help, religion, education, cookbooks, parenting, and social issues, to name a few. But, I wanted to talk about my two favorites. These are usually listed as genres by themselves, but they belong to the non-fiction category:
- Memoirs: people telling their stories, how they’ve succeeded or failed, how they overcame a terrible situation or simply how they got to be in the place they are now is something that I love to read from time to time. Sometimes I pick up some from celebrities and other times from people who aren’t that well-known. They always teach me something and I learn a new perspective.
- True Crime: this is a tough one. Reading about some people’s horrifying acts doesn’t seem like an enjoyable way to spend our time, but trust me when I say that reading True Crime books brings a lot to the table. Not only does this subgenre open our eyes to the injustices in the world, but it also shows how our society works. I’ve learned about the flaws in the criminal justice systems of Italy, the United States and Japan, as well as how insidious and pervasive discrimination, racism and misogyny truly are.
Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History—without the Fairy-Tale Endings by Linda Rodríguez McRobbie
Topics: History | Biography | Feminism
Although I don’t recommend reading story after story and I believe the research behind it is arguably lacking, I loved reading about some real badass princesses from all around the globe! Women’s history has been erased or hidden, so books like this which highlight characters that were so important in battle or the history of their kingdoms are very valuable.
The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell
Topics: Memoir | Film | Humor
If you don’t know the film The Room, please go watch some of its best scenes. This book is Sestero’s memoir, the actor playing Mark in the emblematic film starred, directed and written by Tommy Wiseau. It’s both an insight into the ups and downs of Sestero’s career in the film industry and his rocky friendship with Wiseau, who is an incredibly intriguing (and frustrating) person. The writing is great and the stories are truly compelling, funny, touching and even a bit sad. I believe it’s become one of my favorite books.
Red Azalea by Anchee Min
Topics: Memoir | Chinese culture/history | LGBT+
This is the story of Anchee Min and her experience growing up during the Cultural Revolution and the last years of Mao’s ruling. It was tough reading this one for two reasons: the horrible reality that she faced is terrifying and the writing style is a little off-putting at times. If you’re not that interested in the topics at hand, I wouldn’t recommend it to you because the writing is very choppy and tends to lacks cohesiveness. Nevertheless, I appreciated it because it is Min’s voice and I got used to the style as I read along. I valued her honesty and I couldn’t stop reading.
The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Marion Spezi
Topics: True Crime | Italian criminal justice system
The Monster of Florence was a brutal killer of couples who was never caught, an incredibly frustrating fact to know when you’re reading a true crime book and are disgusted by the killer’s actions. He was the inspiration behind Thomas Harris’ most famous character: Hannibal Lecter. But what amazed me about this story was how the authors became targets of the police investigation. It shows the inefficiency of the criminal justice system and how any place in the world can be striken by tragedy.
Are you afraid of this genre or do you like it? Share your non-fiction recommendations!